Hail pelted much of Central Alberta early Thursday evening, coating some areas in a bubbled, snow-like blanket and damaging properties and vehicles.
Thunder, lightning, sheets of rain and finally the hail hit Red Deer around 5:30 p.m., said Dan Kulak, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada.
A total of 8.2 mm of precipitation fell at the Red Deer Airport on Thursday. Toonie-sized hail belted Ponoka while Red Deer and Eckville reported multiple accounts of golf-ball-size hail.
Near Standard, in the southern part of the province, hail akin to baseballs was recorded, Kulak said.
Katharina Bauer and her husband Richard tried to cover their plants and vegetables with tarps but had to abandon ship when the hail began.
“We were getting red marks on our bodies and heads,” said Bauer, who lives in Red Deer’s Eastview Estates. “It was certainly bigger than marbles. … It’s just a disaster; leaves everywhere. All the plums are down off our plum trees. There’s cucumbers and zucchini and tomatoes smashed, laying all over.”
Bauer said she hadn’t seen such havoc wreaked on her garden by a storm since the 1990s, when 500 of her front-yard tulips were knocked over one night.
Berry Architecture’s rooftop garden took a hit as well in downtown Red Deer, with the weather whipping peppers from the plants and bashing baby tomatoes and squash, as the company reported on social media.
Flowers throughout the park at City Hall were damaged by the hail, as were the hanging baskets along Gaetz Avenue.
“And of course a lot of folks’ vehicles have a few more dents in them,” said Trevor Poth, parks superintendent with the city. “Just lots of standard hail damage. Nothing overly significant.”
The intense rainfall also triggered some erosion behind the Pidherney’s curling centre, along Waskasoo Creek, where a small slope eroded right back to the trail, Poth added.
He said crews will be out over the next week tidying things up.
The rain also made a mess along a portion of 67th Street, which had to be closed between Golden West Avenue and 65th Avenue for about two hours, due to flooding.
“It’s a lower lying area there and when we get high-intensity rains like that it does cause some over-the-road flooding and it does overpower the pumping system,” said Jeremy Bouw, who is with the developmental services division at the city.
Crews were on standby and were deployed to the site with an extra pump to manage the situation, said Bouw. No extensive damage was done, with the exception of one vehicle that tried to plow through the rushing water and was flooded out.
“One of our guys on scene was able to help that person and her child out of that vehicle and keep them dry and warm in his vehicle until the tow truck came,” Bouw said.
The town of Eckville took a hammering as well, with hail the size of grapes still on Mayor Helen Posti’s deck at 11 a.m. on Friday.
“I live on Main Street and when you look out there, all our hanging baskets look pretty well battered,” Posti said. “Most people with holiday trailers are reporting damage to the siding and a lot of houses, especially in the west end, with that new siding. … Some of the windshields look like they’ve been shot with a gun.”
The storm was so loud and ominous-looking that Posti and her visiting niece fled to the basement for cover when it hit. She said it pummeled the roof of the house for about 20 minutes.
“We have a big, 40-foot pine tree in our backyard and you haven’t been able to see through it to the alley for years. Well this storm just sheared it. I can see through it now for the first time in probably 15 years; it just took off the needles, huge bare spots,” Posti said. “This was really a hammering.”
Rob Clarke of Clarke Insurance Services Inc. in Red Deer said anyone with damage to their property from the hailstorm has one to two years to report it.
“The best thing people can do when a storm like this hits is have a little bit of patience. Most of the damage on vehicles here is all cosmetic so it may not look the best but at least they can still utilize the vehicle because it will take a few weeks at least to have the repairs started and for the adjustors to have a look at it,” Clarke said.
His company had calls Friday morning from Airdrie, where damage from the storm was much more intense, he said.
As for crops around the region, the Lacombe-headquartered Agriculture Financial Services Corp. (AFSC) has yet to determine how badly they were affected by the hail.
“Some areas were hit pretty hard,” said Brian Tainsh, manager of on-farm inspections with the AFSC. “If a crop is in the centre of a storm and it’s a bad one, it will do 100 per cent damage or 90-plus. … Last night was pretty active for storms all over here so there will be quite a few claims coming in; we just don’t have any numbers yet.”
The year 2012 was rough for farmers when it came to hail. A record $450 million was paid out in 11,500 claims to Alberta producers. Last year, more than $257 million was paid out on over 6,400 hail claims.
Things haven’t become that dire yet but hail season isn’t over and the storms “from July 17 on are usually the big ones,” said Tainsh.